HRT and Pedro de la Rosa have written a golden page in the history of Spanish motorsport this season. The union of both has resulted in the first time in Formula 1 history that a Spanish driver takes part in an entire world championship with a Spanish team. At the age of 41, the driver from Barcelona is taking on his 14th season in F1, but he maintains the same motivation and hunger as the first day to ensure that this project consolidates itself in the pinnacle of motorsport.
We’re at the halfway stage of the season, what assessment do you make of these first months?
They’ve been seven very intense months, with a spectacular amount of team work, which I’ve taken on with a lot of hunger and desire. We’ve made steady progress but now we’re at a key moment and we must take another step forward. My assessment is very positive because we set ourselves realistic targets, we’ve accomplished them and we’re, more or less, where we expected to be. We’ve still got to improve more and we have nine races ahead in which to do so.
The start was complicated but the team is working better together and improving day by day. Would you say the objectives set at the start of the season are being accomplished?
Without a doubt. We’re accomplishing them and with flying colours at times. We started outside the 107 percent in Australia and we’ve reached peaks of 103.6 percent in Monaco and our best qualifying result which was 103.4 percent in Valencia. That was a very ambitious target that we set ourselves because, for us, to be close to 104 percent is a realistic objective. We’ve surpassed it and have potential to do more. In our case, it’s going to be easier to improve in this second half of the season than it will be for a big team that is striving for perfection because we’ve got much more room for improvement. For now we’ve accomplished our objectives but there are still many races to set ourselves more ambitious targets.
With your experience at big teams it can’t have been easy to arrive at such a humble team as this one. On a personal note, how do you face this challenge and what is most rewarding about it?
I’m taking it on as a challenge, well aware that challenges are never easy and that in Formula 1 no one hands you anything. But in my opinion we’re doing a good job, with humility, work and pride. The most rewarding thing is to work with the people from the team and see that in very difficult conditions, and with much less people than other teams, they work day and night with the conviction that we can beat our rivals. The team is going through a period of change and growth and now we’ve got a fantastic headquarters that has transformed the team. We’ve got a base from which the team is growing day by day. No one has stopped pushing, no matter what the situation. And we’ve felt supported. It’s not easy being at the back and finishing last. But what motivates us every day is that we see that we’re improving and we believe that we won’t be at the back for long. It’s very nice to see that, despite the fact that it’s being very tough, we believe in that step forward.
How is your relationship with your teammates? What would you highlight about each one?
My relationship with Narain (Karthikeyan) is very good. There’s a lot of sincerity and we both want what’s best for the team. We fight hard on the track but in an honest way and, out of the teammates I’ve had, he’s one of the most sincere ones. We try to achieve the best set-up on the car between the two of us without hiding anything from each other. One of the characteristics of Narain and the engineers is that there is total transparency and no bad intentions, we’re aware that we’re last and if one of us finds something that can improve the car he shares it with the other because the objective is to progress. We’re team players.
Dani (Clos) is a great driver and an important part of the team because he’s got a great sense of humour and he makes things seem less dramatic with his characteristic humour. That’s very important for the team and everyone appreciates him. But he’s also very professional and knows how to work well. When he’s driven on Friday’s he’s contributed a lot.
Ma (Qing Hua) has integrated very well. He’s the future of China and a driver that must play an important role in HRT. He’s probably the first Chinese driver with enough quality to be a Formula 1 driver and he left us all flabbergasted at the young driver test in Silverstone with his great performance.
And what’s your relationship with the team principal, Luis Perez-Sala, like?
Luis is one of the main reasons I’m at the team. I’ve always held him in the highest regard and I have blind faith in him. He’s never going to deceive me and I like to work with people who you can trust in and with whom there are no secrets. With Luis what you see is what you get. Sincerity is our strength and that gives us a lot of agility when making decisions.
The F112 had a complicated birth but is a car with potential. What would you say are its strengths and weaknesses?
Its main strength is that it has a great mechanical platform of suspensions and chassis and it has proved it at circuits where that is important. It is also reliable. Its weakness is its lack of downforce compared to other cars. We know exactly where we lose time and why, so we must work on that.
Of the circuits to come, which are you most looking forward to racing at? And the least?
This is a trick question because my favourite circuit is Suzuka, since in my opinion it’s the nicest in the championship, but almost all of its corners are quick and that’s going to give us a lot of problems. So the circuit I’m most looking forward to is Monza because it has long straights and strong braking corners, and our car performs very well in this kind of circuits. The ones I’m least looking forward to are Suzuka and Spa because they’re going to be very complicated for us.
What would you consider a success once the season is finished?
If we manage to qualify inside the 103 percent it will be a complete success. Especially doing so without KERS and a much less effective DRS system than the other teams. But it’s going to be very difficult because at the last Grands Prix the difference has been a bit bigger. If we manage to be under 104 percent with the aero package for Singapore it will be a great finish to the season and the necessary momentum to start next season strongly.
But now it’s time to rest a bit to face an intense second half of the season. What plans do you have for the holidays?
Like every year I’m going to Mallorca, to a small town on the east coast. I’ve spent my summers there since I was three years old and I have my childhood friends there and I’m going with my wife and three daughters who I’m really looking forward to spending as much time as possible with.
A message for the fans
The same one as at the start of the season. We’re thankful for their support and we’re here because of them. I thank them for their patience because I understand that the fans want us to be fighting at the front. But they also see that we’re improving every day, cutting down the difference, and building a serious project for all us to feel proud about.